Should I promote from within?

I’m recruiting for a new sales director. I’ve got one strong candidate I could appoint from within who desperately wants the job and is more than capable of doing it. However, he’s also my best sales person and I’m concerned about the trade I’ll lose if I take him off direct sales duties. What should I do?

A. Adrian Moss of Deal Group Media writes:

Firstly, success should never be an impediment to the career development of a valued employee. A crucial part of your management role is facilitating personal development among your team.

It might be that you need to take a leap of faith, as his promotion could lead to renewed creativity. If he is as capable as you believe he is, he should be able to motivate the sales team – and your short-term loss of sales should reap longer-term benefits.

But the success of an internal appointment will depend on whether your candidate has the support of his peers and that they feel he has the ability to manage them. Are you sure that he has these skills and that his promotion will be welcomed by his team? Your hesitation suggests that you are not convinced.

A sales director needs to be mature in a corporate sense. He will have the responsibility of creating strategies and executing them, will need strong people management skills, and will have a wider understanding of the financials.

Without ensuring he has these capabilities before appointing him you will risk not only losing your best sales person, but also having appointed someone who will affect the performance of the entire sales team. If this happens it would be very hard to send him back to his former role.

When faced with this situation, a compromise could be the solution. Keep the sales director role open and continue to recruit externally. It might be that you find a more suitable candidate.

In the meantime, offer him a caretaker role where he takes on the duties of the sales director without the formal appointment. You will then have time to assess his skills and he won’t lose any face if it turns out that he is not suitable. While he is doing this you could put him through thorough management training.


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